Americans love to quote what could be considered our unofficial scripture. We mostly agree on a collection of core texts that we perceive as authoritative on what it means to be American: documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; landmark speeches like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; literary works by Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe; even the lyrics of Woody Guthrie and Irving Berlin.
But these arguably sacred works can as often be misquoted, misunderstood, taken out of context and used to our own purpose – especially when it comes to political discourse and debate. In his new book, Prothero delves into the texts, speeches, literature and songs that have come to characterize our country. Prothero examines these works that inspire discussion and promote passionate debate, providing context and commentary, reclaiming the words of Martin Luther King, Chief Joseph and Benjamin Franklin from those who would distort their meaning.
In doing so, he provides a valuable resource for understanding where we’ve been, who we are and where we are going, offering a path to better dialogue and more intelligent debate. “To be an American is not to subscribe to a common creed,” writes Prothero, “It is to engage in a common conversation.”
Stephen Prothero, Author of “The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, And Define A Nation” (Harper Collins); Professor of Religion at Boston University. His previous books include “Religious Literacy” and “God Is Not One.”